For those who might be new to virtual worlds an avatar is your representation of yourself, or it is a character you create and control as you interact with the virtual world. You build your avatar when you first establish an account. In Second Life you can adjust its appearance to make it look as close as possible to how you really look, or you can go in the opposite direction and make your avatar look totally different.
The Reuters Second Life News Center (yes, Reuters reports from Second Life) has published information based on a recent survey of adults asking them how they would approach creating a virtual you for a virtual world. KZERO took a look at the Reuters report, and the same survey by US. Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, and created some big, colourful graphs analyzing the information. They also took another step by asking the question:Augmentalists vs Immersionalists. Which one are you? “ ‘Augmentalists’ – people who view their avatar as an extension of their real world persona. …‘Immersionalists’ – those who view their virtual world presence as mutually exclusive from the real world. Augmentalists typically choose to customise their avatar to closely resemble their real world appearance, whereas Immersionalists do not.”
Its important to point out that the survey does not say how many of the 3,585 adults questioned have any experience of virtual worlds. My view is that it is very difficult to make an avatar look like yourself. (Take a look at Milton Broome’s blog to see just how complicated it is to make a realistic representation of yourself.)
Perhaps, if you are thinking of setting up in a virtual world you will start out (as I did) by trying to create a realistic mobile self image? (All I managed to accomplish is my pale skin and a pretty good likeness of my profile.) I eventually thought who cares about this except me? I now have an avatar that has acquired a life and look of its own. I can also turn my avatar into a giant spider, a green robot dragon (with a jet pack) a plump orange fairy and a beautiful blue scorpion! This makes me an augmentalist turned immersionalist.
If you are already a Second Life user reading this blog what would you say about yourself and your avatar? Are you an Augmentalist or Immersionalist?